In a few years’ time, we’ll look back on the 2021 Academy Awards and laugh. What a fascinating spectacle to behold in the midst of [gestures broadly at everything]. But as distinctly strange as this year’s Oscar season has been, there’s still plenty of fun to be had in prognosticating just which films will triumph Sunday night, and which films actually deserve the spotlight. Here are my best guesses to help your [virtual] office pool.
Will win: Given that Nomadland has triumphed at the Golden Globes, the Producers Guild Awards, the Directors Guild Awards, etc., it would be foolish to bet against Chloé Zhao’s drama nabbing the evening’s top award. But I’m going to suggest an unexpected twist: the best picture Oscar will instead go to Judas and the Black Messiah. Why? Partly because the Academy loves throwing curveballs (remember Moonlight?). Partly because voters may want to give a more diverse project some love with Nomadland guaranteed wins in just about every other category. And partly because I suspect that there’s an industry-wide desire to spark surprising headlines that keep the Oscars in the public conversation for more than 24 hours postgala.
Should win: A few months ago, I would have agreed with almost every critic and said that Nomadland is the best film of the bunch. And it is a remarkable film. But I also crave industry drama, so I’m switching my personal preference to Minari – an excellently crafted, tremendously performed, feel-good family drama that renewed my faith in humanity.
Will win: Zhao is taking this award for Nomadland, and there is nothing that anyone – whether it be Amazon detractors or the Chinese government – can do about it.
Should win: I’d be perfectly happy if Zhao wins, and not only because it would be a historic moment for behind-the-camera representation. But I also deeply loved Thomas Vinterberg’s work on the underseen alcoholism dramedy Another Round, and would dance around my living room punch-drunk, Mads Mikkelsen-style, if the Danish director came out on top.
Will win: Promising Young Woman has managed an impressive pandemic-era feat: the dark comedy about sexual assault and revenge has remained a constant presence in the cultural conversation from its theatrical release in December all through this long awards-season slog. While reaction is polarized on the filmmaking itself, there’s a consensus that Carey Mulligan makes the production worthwhile. This is her award to lose.
Should win: Vanessa Kirby is the long-shot here for Pieces of a Woman, but her performance as a grieving mother is a true knockout.
Will win: If you think that anyone other than the late Chadwick Boseman is going to win in this category, I have some bad news. The Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom star has got the posthumous angle, for starters, and also happens to offer a fiery performance as a talented musician lashing out at the world around him.
Should win: Boseman is deserving, but I would be thrilled if Sound of Metal’s Riz Ahmed were to win for his role as a heavy-metal drummer slowly, painfully coming to grips with losing his hearing.
Best Supporting Actress
Will win: This is one of the most complicated categories to predict, as almost every performer has some angle that could tip their win. (Except Glenn Close; sorry, but the Academy is not giving anything to Hillbilly Elegy.) But if it has to be just one winner, it’ll be Minari’s Youn Yuh-jung for her work as a feisty grandmother.
Should win: In Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, Maria Bakalova accomplishes the impossible: upstaging Sacha Baron Cohen. Give her all the awards.
Best Supporting Actor
Will win: Daniel Kaluuya’s powerful, deeply empathetic performance as Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton is the kind of work that defines a career. I cannot see the Academy ignoring the actor … unless the nomination for co-star LaKeith Stanfield somehow cancels Kaluuya out. In which case the award is going to, I dunno, let’s say Sacha Baron Cohen for The Trial of the Chicago 7.
Should win: Sometimes the most likely candidate is also the most worthy. I’m greatly looking forward to Kaluuya’s acceptance speech Sunday night (let’s hope the Oscar producers learn from the Golden Globes’ mistake and fix any technical issues).
The 2021 Academy Awards air live April 25 at 8 p.m. EST on CTV/ABC
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